The Right Stuff 1×05 “The Kona Kai Seance” is the kind of episode that feels much more drama than documentary, and the show benefits greatly from not just that, but a focus on someone other than Shepard, Glenn and Cooper.
Not that I don’t understand why those three get most of the screen time. They have the most interesting storylines, and the show cast the better-known actors for those rules. Still, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again …I wouldn’t mind a more balanced story of the Mercury 7 astronauts, especially considering there are so many of the beats of these people’s lives we already know.
The Right Stuff “The Kona Kai Seance” is all about contrast, once again, but not about contrast in how people choose to live their life – we’ve had a lot of contrast between the way Glenn choses to conduct himself and the way Shepard et all chose to do so, contrast that’s all been leading up to this moment.
John Glenn is more of a politician. He enjoys the shaking hands, the lobbying. You could even say he was born for the politics of this whole thing, not just the actual job. And you’d be right, considering all Glenn went on to do. But that leaves him a bit isolated in a job where isolation isn’t exactly a strength.
Then there’s Shepard, who’s always one cocky decision away from jeopardizing the program, his marriage and who knows what else. He’s great at his job, no one can deny that, and he’s good with the guys, but he isn’t exactly a role model, and he absolutely knows it. He’s not trying to be.
As of now the show has centered on this contrast, been driven by it. This episode that all comes to a head as Shepard makes another dumb decision, Glenn has to save him from himself, but then ends up losing his politician veneer for long enough to admit that he thinks he’s better than anyone else, which of course causes everyone to then …pick Shepard, when asked who should be the pilot of the first mission.
It all makes sense, because despite the fact that these men are dealing with stuff no one had dealt with before, they’re still human. Human decisions are driving everything that’s happening. And yet, make no mistake about it, Shepard is no better than Glenn at anything …but especially not at leading.
They both have a hell of a lot to learn.
Glenn needs to understand that to be a leader you need to be part of the group. No one respects a leader that stays on the outskirts and then wants to take charge when bad stuff happens, as if he were, somehow, the only one who could save the rest from their bad decisions.
Shepard needs to understand that you can’t rely on other people to fix your mistakes over and over again, claim you’re entitled to them, because the job you do is hard, and expect people to look at you and see only your work.
For now, Shepard has come out on top, because apparently, despite the fact that the show itself has rarely focused on all of the Mercury 7 astronauts, the story they were trying to tell us was about all these men, and what it means to be part of a group. But this season isn’t over, and the story isn’t over …there are still a lot of moving parts to get to the end.
As long as it’s an interesting story, I guess we don’t need friendship to win. Not in this one.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think about The Right Stuff 1×05 “The Kona Kai Seance”? Share with us in the comments below
The Right Stuff is available to stream on Disney+.